Free to Thrive

Book Pick: Life Under Compulsion

Life Under Compulsion

10 Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child

By Anthony Esolen

224 pages, $27.95

Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2015

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With his most recent book, Anthony Esolen follows up on Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. In this new book, he also draws on the great thinkers of the Western tradition, from Aristotle and Cicero to Dante, Shakespeare, John Adams and C.S. Lewis. This is a book that restates the importance of concepts so often dismissed: truth, beauty, goodness, love, faith and virtue. It is countercultural, in the best sense of the term. In fact, it is an indispensable gift for any parent who wants to help a child enjoy a truly free and full life.

For Esolen, what matters is raising children who can sit with a good book and read, who delight in innocence, who can walk outdoors and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Esolen wants to free children to be lovers of both humanity and the humanities. He is looking to help parents resist in a healthy way the reigning culture. You name it, he covers it — with wit and understanding — whether it’s Common Core, smartphones, videogames, sex education, popular music, advertising and even politicians and their promises. He also elegantly writes about the wisdom of education, parenting, literature, music, art, philosophy and leisure.

Esolen’s cogent observations on all of these topics make for a book that is a great value not only for parents, but for grandparents or anyone who cares about children. This includes teachers, who bear such great responsibility to steer students  toward the good. Finally, this book also can be of great service to Catholic priests, who by the nature of their vocation also have a role in helping the children not to become victims of our culture of death.

Despite the title, Life Under Compulsion is in some respects a hope-filled book, because it champions a natural-law vision of the human person. Such a vision inspires us because it is true to the reality God created.

The author, who is the father of several children and a professor of English at Providence College, has guided many people in the university and has spoken at conferences. He is already a great treasure for the Church in this country; and through his work, no doubt, has saved many souls from perdition. In fact, he can help us in our ongoing struggle in the culture wars of our time. With his help, we can raise our children in a way that frees them from the mediocrity of our present culture and brings them wisdom that is God-given.

Opus Dei Father C. John McCloskey

is a research fellow at the

Faith and Reason Institute

in Washington.